Nebraska and Colorado are sparring over water rights

October 13, 2022

The Colorado-Nebraska border is where people have built their lives around the South Platte River.

In Clear Creek County, Colorado, ranchers like Tom Lacy have long grazed cattle on land that was once underwater. As drought has drained the river, he's had to buy hay from Nebraska to feed his cows.

"When we have a dry year," he said, "we're going to be buying hay from Nebraska."

Residents on this state line have built their industry, economy and lives around the South Platte River. But as an intense and widespread drought digs into the High Plains, flows have decreased.

Unwilling to leave things to chance, Nebraska has taken action by invoking the fine print of a century-old water compact between the two states — and sparking new tension in the process.


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